If It Must Be Done, It Must Be Done Well

It is an incontrovertible fact that the University of Ghana after reconstructing the roads within the University have mounted toll booths at various entrances to the University and as at 1st February 2014 started collection of tolls.

Among those required to pay this toll are students, commercial vehicles, private vehicles and the general public. The staff of the University and their dependents are exempt from this toll. There has being a public reservation to this action by the University with students petitioning parliament and others petitioning the courts for redress. As a Student of the University and a member of the University Community I will like to express my opinion on the action by the University.

I will express my opinion in 3 facets; the Legal dimension, Human right dimension and Rule of law dimension to the action by the university authorities.

The Road Traffic Act 2004 (ACT 683) defines Public road to include a street, highway and any other road or public place to which the public has access by vehicle or cycle and the bridge over which a road passes.

The Toll (Amendment ) Act 1999 (ACT 570) also defines Public road to mean any street, highway, public place or other road to which the public have access and includes bridges over which a road passes. In the case of State v. Yankey (1966) GLR 208-213 the ultimate criterion in determining whether or not a place is a road is the access to the place by the public.

This case also defines Public road to include highway, street, lane, pavement, footway or other place whether a thoroughfare or not to which the public have access either by written permission or by tolerance of the owner. The words “other places” in the definition is also wide that it could include restricted areas like harbours, police and army barracks and college compounds where students who are members of the general public can be found.

From the foregoing it is an unambiguous fact that the roads within the University of Ghana are Public Roads, so called and the autonomy whatsoever of the University does not debar the classification of the roads as public roads. I am fortified in my conclusion by the case of State v. Yankey which states that roads within the University of Cape Coast are public roads and subject to public rules and regulations.

If the roads within the University of Ghana are public roads then according to the Toll (Amendment) Act (ACT 570) the ability to toll falls under the ambit of the Minister of Roads and Transport who can only through a legislative instrument passed by parliament make regulations to toll any public road.

It is a notorious fact that neither the University authorities nor the Minister of Road and Transport has through a legislative instrument passed by parliament made any such regulation. In fact nothing has been placed before parliament for consideration.

From the foregoing, it is my humble considered opinion that the action by the University to toll the roads within the university smacks of illegality.

Furthermore, Article 12(1) of the Constitution of Ghana 1992 (herein referred to as the Constitution) states that the fundamental human right and freedom enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary and all other organs of government and its agencies and where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in Ghana and shall be enforceable by the courts as provided for in this constitution.

Article 17(1) of the Constitution states “All persons shall be equal before the law”.

Article 17(2) states “A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic religion, creed or social or economic status”. Article 17(3) states for the purpose of this article “discriminate” means to give different treatment to different persons attributable only or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, gender, occupation, religio or creed, whereby persons of one description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another description are not made subject or granted privileges or advantages which are not granted to persons of another description.

These constitutional provisions are very clear and unequivocal, the University authorities exempting themselves and their dependents who earn salaries and are in a better position to pay whiles including students who are also part of the university community and above all pay development levy as part of their school fees is the highest form of discrimination.

If anyone does not see this real and dangerous form of discrimination as envisaged by the constitution then I don’t know what else can be classified as discrimination. I am clear in my mind that the inclusion of students in the tolling is nothing but a calculated attempt to extort money from student through unapproved means.

Article 25(1c) states “higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education”. It is trite law that when constitutional provisions are so clear, effect needs to be given to it. I do not honestly see how imposing tolls on students who access the University of Ghana, a public institution built with monies from cocoa farmers, seeks to work towards free education.

It’s ludicrous and unfortunate when those seeking to impose these tolls themselves, enjoyed free education in the University, enjoyed the benefit of taking allowances and free food ; how hypocritical can this be? I will conclude this episode on human right with Article 296 of the Constitution which states where in this constitution or in any other law discretionary power is vested in any person or authority (a) that discretionary power shall be deemed to imply a duty to be fair and candid, (b) the exercise of the discretionary power shall not be arbitrary, capricious or biased either by resentment, prejudice or personal dislike and shall be in accordance with due process of law.

Last but not least is the issue of Rule of law, this is an extended line of authority and trite law on the proposition that the fact that a Public Institution has the power to take a decision and goes through the required process to make the law does not make that law good law or does not mean the law is in tandem with the principles of rule of law. Rule or law is said to be in line with the concept of Rule of Law when that rule or law is REASONABLE thus an ordinary person reading the law or rule will be of the opinion that that rule or law is reasonable. Again that rule or law should promote fundamental human rights. The requirement of rule of law and fundamental human rights because of its importance is mentioned in the preamble of the Constitution of Ghana 1992.

From the points stated above, it is my humble considered view that the decision by the University Authorities to toll the university roads and more so to include students is repugnant to the spirit and letter of the Constitution, violates the concept of Rule of Law and the protection of Fundamental Human Rights as stated in the preamble of the Constitution of Ghana 1992.

All well-meaning Ghanaians, who recognise the toil and suffering of our fore fathers to build this country and entrench rule of law and fundamental human rights too should rise and speak against what is wrong.